Capitol Hill is buzzing about the serious problems within our federal criminal justice system. The Federal Bureau of Investigations, Department of Justice, and other agencies are under the microscope because of actual and alleged abuses of power, all while Congress begins its yearly appropriations process.
But there is another problem hiding in plain sight, one that could get worse without a course correction by Congress. It is delayed justice.
This crisis is growing at every stage of the federal justice system, from how long it takes a U.S. Attorney to decide whether to prosecute a case to the time it takes to resolve a guilty plea and complete a jury trial.
Victims and defendants alike deserve swift justice. Congress has an opportunity to prevent the wheels of justice from becoming even slower during this year’s appropriations process.
The backlog of pending criminal cases in the federal court system has increased by more than a quarter over the past five years even as the number of new arrests and criminal cases filed have declined significantly.
This has resulted in lengthy delays in the time it takes to resolve criminal cases. The average criminal case now takes nearly ten months to resolve if there is a guilty plea and more than two years if a trial is required. Many victims and defendants alike go without justice for months or even years.
The federal system is not the only one facing such a crisis as many states are seeing similar backlogs and delays in justice. Congress has a unique opportunity to lead by example and prevent these delays from worsening in the coming years.
Both the House and Senate are currently advancing proposals that inadvertently cut the budget for the federal public defense system in ways that could leave it with up to a 5 percent budget shortfall and cause it to have to lay off nearly 500 of its staff. Instead of improving the speed of justice, these proposals would undermine it.
You can read the full article at The Hill.